When traveling abroad, it’s important to understand cultural differences and adhere to local customs. This knowledge of etiquette, body language, and attitudes can be the key to your success of spell disaster. In Asia, and especially Japan, social behavior is especially important. Read on to find tips for your next business trip to Asia.




The Japanese people are fairly traditional in their business customs and place much importance on formality, graciousness, and politeness. From the time Japanese children are very young, they are taught how to bow properly. There is even “bowing training!” When you are making introductions, keep this image in mind.  Some Japanese business people will also shake hands while bowing. However, the handshake is limp with no eye contact and non aggressive. They take their greetings very seriously. If you’re unsure of your bowing proficiency, consider practicing at home before hand!


When you are going through the ceremonial bowing, be sure to simultaneously offer your business card with two hands. When they give you their card, thank them and keep it somewhere safe. It’s considered gauche to leave a card behind or scribble on its backside. Always be on time for meetings, take detailed notes, and nod often! These gestures demonstrate a meticulous, studious nature and reflect positively on you! Avoid too much eye contact because it’s considered impolite. Finally, keep small talk to a minimum. The Japanese are comfortable with silence and unaccustomed to mindless ramblings.




In the past, Chinese business greetings involved a bow. However, in more recent years, introductions begin with a handshake. Assess which you feel more comfortable with and act accordingly. If your introduction is met with applause, it’s important to reciprocate the gesture and clap for your new business associates. Your enthusiasm is vital!


When printing business cards, make sure one side is printed in English and the other side in simple Chinese characters. Business meetings always begin on time, and negotiations can last for upwards of ten days! Be prepared for rigorous vetting and drafting. Be prepared to hire a translator if necessary.


China is one of the places where expensive gifts are considered a sign of friendship and good taste! However, your gift might be rejected three times before it is accepted. So if your new associate declines your shiny present, don’t get too discouraged. It’s simply a matter of having good manners.




India is diverse, modern, and densely populated! It’s a vibrant culture with distinct customs! Although the Indian people are familiar with handshaking, it’s always a nice gesture to greet them with their traditional, “Namaste” while giving a slight bow. Men and women do not always shake hands. If this happens, don’t be offended. It’s just a custom and not meant to show disrespect. On the contrary, it’s meant to demonstrate civility.


Use your right hand to touch someone, pay for something, or pick up business documents. The left hand is considered by many Indian people to be “unclean.” Like the Chinese and Japanese, the Indian people place a high value on business cards. Don’t leave them behind or treat them carelessly. In India, it’s fine to have your cards printed in English.


Finally, it’s considered rude to begin business negotiations right away without getting to know your new acquaintance. Ask them about their personal interests–their family, hobbies, and background before you jump into work! Business is often a slow, meticulous process of debate. Be patient and positive, and you will do well!


Saudi Arabia


Religious customs are very important to the people of Saudi Arabia, and this focus on tradition and spirituality bleeds into all aspects of life, including business. Remember that negotiations will have to be scheduled to accommodate daily prayer.


The people of Saudi Arabia appreciate a personal touch, so it’s vital to establish relationships and cultivate them! Business people in Saudi Arabia prefer to work with people they know and trust, so don’t expect meetings to be private right away. That’s a right that must often be earned.  Don’t be surprised by late or even canceled meetings. Be gracious, offer lots of praise to your associates, and remember that relationships take time to develop, but have very positive long-term outcomes.